Tag Archives: early learning

A Cool Breeze for Washington

It is no doubt going to be a hot summer in Washington, and the political hot air isn’t much help.  A good way for our elected leaders to “chill out” might be to reach agreement on an issue that in the past has had strong bipartisan support.  Support for early learning, particularly the extension and expansion of a current initiative that has proven to have an incredible positive return on investment, might be what is needed to put a welcome chill in the air.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for significant investments in preschool, and expansion of the highly successful federal home visiting initiative, called the Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) initiative.  As the President noted, analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis demonstrates a return on investment of up to $18 for every $1 we dedicate to these early learning strategies. 

Parents as Teachers (PAT) is one of the selected evidence based home visiting models that states have adopted to inform and engage parents as the first and most significant teachers of their young children.  In the last year alone, our Parent Educators have made nearly 1.7 million home visits with families across the nation.  A 2007 study by Edward Zigler and Judy Pfannenstiel confirms that high-quality preschool, along with parent education services such as PAT, can virtually eliminate the learning gaps between children from low-income and middle-class families. So we have a strategy that both works, and saves more than it costs. 

PAT was at first adopted by former Missouri Governor Kit Bond, a Republican.  It has since been supported by governors and legislatures of both parties, in states across the nation.  Ask any family who has benefited from PAT, and they will tell you how significant their parent educator was to them in their early years of parenting.  In addition, many of our elected leaders have had personal experience with PAT as young parents. 

The point is that early learning has bipartisan support because it works.  PAT and similar home visiting models are proven to reduce child abuse and malnutrition, identify health and learning problems, and improve the overall physical and mental health of children and mothers. When we deal with these matters early in life, it makes for a healthier nation with more effective parents and higher-achieving children.  It also costs a whole lot less to identify and treat developmental problems early, than to fix them later in life.  

Federal funding for home visiting has benefited hundreds of thousands of families in every state in the nation.  Members of Congress have an opportunity—this year—to extend and expand funding for MIECHV programs that have proven they can make a difference in the lives of children and families. 

Yes, there’s a lot of hot air rising over Washington, and there are clear differences over the budget.  But members of both parties should agree that proven interventions such as home visiting deserve continued and expanded funding.  It is not just the right thing, it is the smart thing to do.

Scott Hippert is President and CEO of Parents as Teachers National Center.



25 million good buys

Twenty-five million children under 5.
Twenty-five million potential new employees for U.S. businesses starved for skilled workers.

With 76 million baby boomers set to retire soon, there are not enough skilled workers to replace them. The estimated shortfall is 25 million workers. This shortage will result in intense future competition for workers and many jobs going unfilled.

The good news is the failing workforce pipeline can be repaired. The better news is that the solution offers an incredible return on investment—as much as 17:1 according to noted economists. If it was your business, where would you put your money?

The solution? Early childhood. Early experiences impact how we learn…and how much we earn.

The foundation of many skills needed for 21st century jobs, including problem solving and social skills, are established in the first five years of life. Each kind of brain development has a different window of opportunity for learning. Once the window for a particular ability has shut, it is much harder—if not nearly impossible—for a child to learn this skill.

So much of what a child learns when he enters school builds on the skills that are mastered while these windows for learning are open!

The window for investment is open now.
What’s holding you back?

Thank you, Charlie Sheen!

3 moms

Used under Creative Commons license.

Mom always told us to behave, mind our Ps and Qs, be polite and respectful of others. Otherwise…well, we might end up like Charlie Sheen.

On one hand, look what he’s done. “As soon as CBS had about enough of the “Two and a Half Men” actor’s antics, his cancelled show led to a slew of cancelled ads,” said Cornelia Grumman, executive director of the First Five Years Fund in a recent email. “Voila! Suddenly affordable ad space made it possible to showcase the importance of early learning in America’s foremost conversation pit: a Jumbotron smack dab inNew York City’s Times Square.”

The FFYF ad will run every hour on the CBS Jumbotron on 42nd street between 7th and 8th Avenues through July 8. But you don’t have to go to NYC to see it; you can watch it here.

“We have to educate our way to a better economy.”

That’s the assessment of Arne Duncan, secretary of education, after seeing disappointing scores of 300,000 students who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, a national “report card” of the education system. Overall, eighth grade math scores increased, but only marginally; fourth graders did not improve at all. More than 60% of fourth graders and 66% of eighth graders are not proficient in math.

Is it any surprise then that a new report from the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council calls for the expansion of K-12 engineering education? Early exposure to engineering not only boosts students’ technological literacy, it also promotes problem solving, systems thinking and teamwork, the report says.

The Academy called for philantrohopic foundations or federal agencies with an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and school reform to identify ways to incorporate engineering education for different American school systems.

Here’s a suggestion: look at BLOCK Fest, an interactive exhibit for kids 8-months to 8-years old that combines math and science learning with social, emotional, language, motor and cognitive skill development. BLOCK Fest gives parents the opportunity to help their children become math and science thinkers.

What would happen if we put a round block on top of thie tower?
What would happen if we put a round block on top of the tower?

Yep; even kids this young learn counting, estimating, equality, adding, planning, classifying and volume while playing with blocks. They explore mass, velocity, inclines and wheels. They learn about weight, size, cause/effect, force and causality.

The National Association of Women in Construction supported Parents as Teachers and BLOCK Fest recently. They know they’re going to need an educated workforce and are already working with schools to jump start the learning. What about the rest of you? Where are you going to be finding those critical thinkers, engineers and architects?